Children take different routes to the same destination. They will all grow up eventually but develop at their own pace. There’s no right way or right time for reaching the development milestones – let them take their time. Babies develop at wildly different rates and just because you have the desire to raise an over achiever don’t let your child feel that pressure too. Let kids be kids. They have a lifetime ahead where they will be expected to perform and achieve. Don’t obsess over them reaching each milestone at the so-called right age, right from the time they are born.
Here are some “milestones” and people’s reactions to delays in them –
Rolling and then sitting up?
As soon as my son completed 3 months, this question started pouring in from all quarters – Is he rolling yet? Yes he did so a few weeks back. To which the follow-up statement was “He will start sitting soon too”. I smiled politely but did not want to get caught up with this milestone followed by that. I wanted to live in the moment and enjoy his rolling around the bed but smartly stopping at the edge. His squealing with delight when he discovered he could play with his own fingers and toes. His smile after he put his own foot in the mouth and tasted it for the first time. I didn’t want to keep obsessing over when, how will he sit now!
Short lived Tooth-less smiles
While we love our baby’s toothless smiles, as they approach 6 month mark, we start worrying about when their first tooth will pop up. I remember one of my friends went to the doctor since her son was 9 months old without a single tooth. The doctor assured her his development was fine and let him be. He then joked “Have you ever seen a toothless teenager? He will get them eventually, just be patient!” My own son popped his first tooth at 10 months and I was glad about that for he was old enough to bear the pain. Late teething actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since it made the process fairly smooth and no trouble at all.
Crawling, Walking and running?
There is a constant pressure for babies to start crawling, slowly pulling themselves up with support and taking their first step soon after. I sometimes wonder why we are in a hurry for this one. Until then, you can leave them in one place and they will pretty much stay there. But once they start cruising around they can access everything, reach anywhere. There is actually no stopping them! I remember my own son started wriggling on his stomach and altogether skipped the crawling stage. People often used to exclaim and wonder why he was not crawling yet. Somehow the pressure did not get transferred to my husband and me. He held himself up, started climbing low objects and a few weeks before his first birthday took his first steps. Only a few weeks into walking and he was already running and is still running all the time!
Apparently there is a magic age by which kids should start talking. One fine day our kids should just wake up and be chattering away. Not in the gradual way of starting with one word, a phrase and then a complete sentence. And you are to be blamed if his first words don’t occur soon. If you are a stay at home mom, you are accused of not talking to him enough. And if you are working, you are often advised to quit your job to help him achieve this milestone. The only mantra I feel that helps is putting them in a play school. They see other kids and pick up many habits including their ability to express themselves through words. Their vocabulary expands manifolds being around other children their age.
Eating on own
Don’t expect them to start eating with a spoon, neatly like adults from day one. Let them take their own time. Yes they will create a mess but that’s a small cost for the good habit we will inculcate in them of eating independently. Just stuffing food into their mouths is not going to aid their growth. To develop well they need to relish the food they have and enjoy it. This tip helped me greatly and I often share it with new mothers who reach out to me. Soon after I started my son on solids we used to seat him in his high chair and place his plate with food in front of him. We assisted him in eating but he got comfort out of the fact that he was eating on his own. Now that he is 4 years old he continues with this habit. He wants everything we are eating to be on his plate tgoo, eats neatly and knows that he should finish everything on his plate.
If your baby is not premature and lags behind in achieving all milestones, you may want to discuss with your doctor. Even though that alone may not be a cause of worry, it may be good to seek professional opinion. But if a child is developing normally, but achieves a milestone or two at the later end of the spectrum, it is perfectly okay. There is a wide variation in achieving each developmental milestone that occurs among perfectly normal children. The child is a typical late bloomer in that case and there is no reason to be concerned.
We can also remind ourselves that things like this do not need to be disclosed on resumes or college applications. After filling in your name, gender and date of birth you are not asked to check if you rolled over before six months or later! Reaching the milestone at whatever time children do should be celebrated and enjoyed. In the end everyone is running their own race. Don’t miss the first time your child laughs, rolls, sits, stands, walks, talks or does anything in your worry that it is not the right time.
This article was first published on Momspresso (erstwhile mycity4kids).